TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation is tackling the problems facing parents with several initiatives to create better opportunities for the tribe’s youngest members.

Cherokee Nation early childcare workers are getting a 35 percent bump in pay, which was prompted in response to the Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Task Force review. 

The tribe will also offer a Flexible Spending Account and contribute $2,000 per child to be used for childcare needs. This would allow employees to save funds pre-tax, reducing overall childcare costs.

Cherokee Nation has already surpassed the national salary average for childcare professionals, said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in a prepared statement.  The tribe will also provide sign-on bonuses when hiring for early childcare positions, and provide increased educational opportunities for the early childcare workforce through Cherokee Nation Career Services.

Chief Hoskin created the Early Childhood Task Force in March to help identify areas of opportunity and areas of unmet needs regarding early childcare within the Cherokee Nation Reservation. The task force is on track to invest up to $40 million to replace or rehabilitate all of the tribe’s Head Start centers.

“Whether you need childcare directly, someone in your family needs childcare, someone in your community needs it, or maybe you will need childcare at some point in the future, it’s an issue that impacts all of us,” Hoskin said. “We want young Cherokees to have great opportunities in childcare, which is an important part of their development.”

One critical component of the Verna D. Thompson Early Childhood Education Act is a comprehensive review of all early childhood educational services in the Cherokee reservation, he said.

The tribe will also partner with Cherokee Nation Businesses to build a new childcare facility on the Hard Rock casino property in Catoosa. The facility will help fill a gap in the childcare needs of Rogers County, where there are nearly 4,000 Cherokee children ages 12 and under, second only to Cherokee County within the Cherokee Nation Reservation. For each available childcare slot in Rogers County, there are three children.

The tribe will contribute $5 million to local Boys & Girls Clubs, which provide after-school programs for thousands of Cherokee children in the reservation.

Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Connections Program focuses on relative providers who are caring for children while parents work or attend school.

More information on the tribe’s existing childcare programs can be found by emailing the Cherokee Nation Human Services department at humanservices@cherokee.org or calling 918-453-5422.

The complete Early Childhood Task Force report can be found online at this PDF link.